The breasts are designed in such a way that breastfeeding mothers are not supposed to know how much the baby is getting.
But that doesn’t stop a mother from worrying. “For a year I stressed about my milk supply and if Cayden was getting enough. Now I finally feel at ease,” says Cassandra Erasmus.
So how will you know that your baby is getting enough?
Weight gain is a good indication whether your baby is getting enough, but according to Breastfeedinginc Website, rules about weight gain appropriate for bottle fed babies may not be appropriate for breastfed babies. Not all scales are the same and weight can vary from one scale to another. A baby that gets weighed with a soaked nappy may also weigh a few grams more than their actual weight and this needs to be taken into account. According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), a baby should generally put on about 120g-400g per week with around 250g being about the average in the first 6 weeks. It then slows down and plateaus a bit at around 4 months. The baby will be alert and active, appear healthy, have good colour, firm skin, and will be growing in length and head circumference as well.
For the first few days after birth, the baby passes meconium, a dark, almost black, substance. After that, the stools become lighter, as the baby drinks more milk. Breastfed babies’ stools can be pasty to watery, mustard coloured and usually has little to no odour. They may be green or orange, may contain seeds or have mucus in. This doesn’t mean something is wrong. According to Dr Jack Newman (Physician who specialises in breastfeeding), a baby who is getting only breast milk, and is starting to have bowel movements that are becoming lighter by day 3, is doing well. The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding, a book that was published by the La Leche League (an international nonprofit organization that distributes information on and promotes breastfeeding) states that in the first 6 weeks baby should be doing 2-5 soiled nappies per day - each one about the size of a R5 coin, and 5 or 6 wet nappies (disposable) or 6-8 cloth per day. Around 6 weeks (though it can happen from 4 or 5 weeks) some babies reduce the frequency of their soiled nappies - this is quite fine and normal - it happens because baby is making better use of the same amount of milk.
Baby’s breastfeeding is characteristic
A baby who is getting a good amount of milk at the breast sucks in a very specific way. Their mouth should be open wide and their lips turned out while sucking at the breast. A baby has short, rapid sucks at the beginning of a feed to trigger a letdown which will cause the milk to start flowing. Sucking slows as the baby starts to drink. You should hear your baby swallow. As baby drinks, the mouth opens very wide, there is a pause, and then the mouth closes. If your baby has this open- pause- close type of sucking for most of the feeding, your baby is getting enough breast milk.
The following are NOT good ways of judging
Your breasts don’t feel full. Your body adjusts to your baby’s requirements. It takes a few weeks for your milk supply to be established and in that time your breasts can be overfull or feel empty.
You hardly get anything out when you express. “When jnr was 4days I was obsessed with how much milk he was drinking. The clinic sister told me to pump and see how much milk he was getting and if I had enough milk. Thank goodness my mom told me that what I pumped out was not an indication of how much milk I had.” Your baby is the best at draining your breast and to trigger a letdown fast.
Your baby cries after a feed. Sometimes babies can cry after a feed because they are still hungry but there are also other reasons for crying – colic, trapped wind, soiled nappy etc. Don’t limit feeding. Let your baby finish the first breast, before offering the second.
Your baby feeds often and/or for a long time. Each feeding session will vary from one mother to another. For some a 30min feed can be long and for others it can be short. Don’t watch the clock. Let your baby determine when he wants to drink. Look out for feeding cues and listen if your baby is swallowing. A baby can be “feeding” for an hour but is he swallowing constantly in that hour or is he just sucking?
If you have any doubts about your milk supply and worried if your baby is getting enough milk, don’t suffer in silence. Get help as soon as possible. Either from an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant or La Leche League Leader who is a mother with many years of breastfeeding experience and certified in giving advice and support. Which you can find here: http://www.llli.org/southafrica.html
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